Use Adaptable Native Plants Amid Weather Extremes
We’re going to experience more early springs and late springs, record-breaking rains and long-lasting droughts, and the traditionally-pampered garden will suffer. One superb benefit of using native plants in our landscapes is their higher tolerance for climatic stresses – in other words, they tend to be designed for boom-bust cycles.
In the face of a drought, some native plants will close up shop early hoping next year is better, while others won’t be fooled into emerging early when the spring heat comes ahead of schedule. It’s also important that native plants come from open-pollinated seed with local origins, which will make them genetically predisposed to thriving in your area. Another role native plants play is in buffering climate change when it comes to supporting species diversity. For example, many pollinators (moths, butterflies, bees) have evolved special relationships with many native plants. Lots of our native bees species forage for pollen on specific plant species, syncing their lifecycle around the expected bloom time of those species.
Butterfly and moth caterpillars also have specialized relationships with plants, able to eat only specific plants – like monarchs and milkweed or the endangered dotted skipper, which lays eggs on switchgrass. Kids growing up today see 35 percent fewer butterflies than their parents did 40 years ago, and 28 percent fewer songbirds; using native plants will better support wildlife as their environments shrink and morph in a changing climate. In fact, climate zones are moving north and uphill at 3.8 feet per day, but not all species can move, or move fast enough to keep pace.